Jeff Golub

Grand Central

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A staple of the smooth jazz format since the mid-'90s, the former sideman for Rod Stewart fills a unique rock/blues gap between the genre's overabundance of R&B-influenced saxmen and the cool, classy elegance of artists like Chris Botti. At his best, as on this exciting collection, he's raw and just a bit dirty, wailing with his buddies and having some loose, energetic fun. Though fans mostly saw him out there on the Guitars & Saxes Tour or on countless smooth cruises, Jeff Golub spent his down time at home in N.Y.C. seeking out local clubs where he could jam with his buddies and break in some new material. Fashioned as a celebration of both the loud and subtle conversations between workaday New Yorkers, Grand Central found Golub happy in the midst of his adopted hometown, jamming hard and fast as if the subway's doors are closing and he's just about to jump on or off. He plays it mostly fast and funky, but shows a unique emotional depth by making his guitar gently weep on a nice cover of "Something." It's clear he's having a blast taking a live-in-the-studio approach with a handful of the cats he ensembles with around town. Keyboardist Chris Palmaro throws a buoyant piano harmony down on the brassy scorcher "Hello Betty" (inspired by an old romantic gum commercial!) as easily as he creates a retro-chill cool on Sly Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay" (a vibe that echoes Golub's more laid-back previous disc, Temptation). On the Ray Charles-influenced "The Way I Feel Tonight," the guitarist's sweet, bluesy charm is massaged by Palmaro's brooding B-3 and pianist Kenny White's jazzy shimmer. Golub always includes tracks with his smoothie all-star pals; here, Rick Braun leads the horn section on "Hello Betty" (which he also produced), Kirk Whalum goes dark and cool on the acoustic jazz ballad "Slinky," and Richard Elliot keeps the customer satisfied on a pleasant cover of "Ain't No Woman Like the One I Got." The brightest cameo belongs to Philippe Saisse, who invokes the spirit of Les McCann stunningly on the crazed, horn-drenched soul-jazz jam "Mojito," a track inspired by a drink Golub dubbed a favorite on one of the smooth cruises. After a low-key chilled-out turn on his previous disc, it's great to hear him partying again.

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